Monday, April 16, 2018

OER @ eLCC 2018

eLCC was bubbling over with excitement about Open Education Resource (OER) legislation in Colorado, and the conference itself featured more than six OER presenters.

My focus when attending OER presentations was on determining the current state of OER from the perspectives of individual educators who were using OER in their classrooms, and from the perspectives of administrators in charge of college-wide efforts to bring OER to their students.

Broadly speaking, it was clear from each presenter that the OER ecosystem remains underdeveloped; the technologies that support the distribution of OER remain underdeveloped, and there seems to remain a dearth of available, quality content.

Complaints abounded surrounding OER repositories like Merlot, and, in the end, it seems that Google remains the number one resource for educators who are looking to incorporate OER into their classrooms. This lack of a quality repository helps ensure that it remains difficult to find coherent sets of OER; for instance, finding multiple OER reading materials whose content aligns with a course's learning goals, and then finding OER assessments that test those learning goals, seems to be impossible in most cases.

As commonly noted by eLCC OER presenters, much of the OER content that can be found suffers from accessibility issues, or isn't responsive, is difficult to edit, or doesn't work one LMS or another. Further, all OER presenters at eLCC warned that externally hosted OER can disappear on a moment's notice, and that very little OER currently receives any updates.

In the end, my conclusion is that the best place to begin to focus any new OER initiative is locally, at each institution; by implementing a Learning Object Repository initiative. Until a university is able to figure out how to support the sharing of resources inside the context of their own establishment, inside a shared LMS, any attempts to utilize the much broader and messier world of OER will fall flat, or at least fail to advance the ecosystem in a meaningful way.

My hope is to shift the conversation to LOR mastery, to help people tackle a more manageable problem in a simpler and smaller context before they charge after the beast that is OER.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Asking what if? DevLearn 2017

I love DevLearn. It’s a conference that lets you dream about possibilities. It lets you throw “practical” out the window, put aside issues of cost and implementation, and just ask what-if.

What if there were a space dedicated to faculty for the exploration and experimentation of augmented reality? Faculty would be provided a bundle of development apps (think Aurasma) and a variety of devices such as an Android phone and iPad and a basic set of instructions. Completed test projects would be uploaded to a common area for sharing with other interested faculty developers. The words “no” and “can’t” would not be allowed, only a loosely structured testbed for the nurturing of ideas.

What if there were a series of open forums between faculty, students, course developers, and regional employers? The forums would consist of open discussion on how technologies could be implemented to improve 1) teaching, 2) the student learning experience, and 3) the media literacy needs of future employers.

What if Jesuit institutions could work as a collaborative to purchase technologies as a single unit? There would be one LMS solution for all 28 institutions. One SIS system. One Payroll system. One HR system. With one common support system for all that would be one phone call away. Annual cost savings alone would be sufficient to fund a number of technology projects.

Baycrest Medical Center AR orientation
What if we had the budget to fund a sampling of AR/VR/MR technologies along with several example apps and let faculty “geek out” and get a taste of what’s possible.

All of the above occurred at DevLearn this past October, although with not the specificity that’s described above. Several companies, including The eLearning Guild, sponsors of DevLearn, put on a display of augmented/virtual reality that was amazing to experience as well as watch others experience for the first time. eLearning Guild had a large booth set up with VR devices from Sony, HVC, Oculus, and Samsung. Attendees strapped on these devices and participated in experiences to demonstrate the power of virtual reality. No one was saying “too expensive” or “too resource intensive” or “too this” or “too that”. It was a hands-on, balls to the wall, real time demonstration of what’s possible.

Creating better infographics
There were also a number of round table discussions on topics related to technology in education. One of the most telling was an informal discussion on media literacy and digital literacy and how we are preparing students on their use in the workplace. The overarching opinion was that higher education, in general, does a poor job at preparing students in these crucial areas. In short, the majority of students are not prepared and higher education needs to place more emphasis on integrating the technology tools used by businesses so new hires can hit the ground running, particularly with electronic collaboration.

My biggest takeaway from this conference? Start any project, particularly projects involving something new and innovative, by asking those no-holds-barred, no boundaries, what-if questions of what's possible. Dream big. Scale back as reality sets in, but always reach for the stars. 

Several resources from notable sessions in no particular order:

Resources for creating microvideos

Resources for an inexpensive video podcast studio
Augmented reality on the cheap (new employee orientation, Baycrest Health Sciences)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Teach Access Professor Bootcamp

I am glad I had the opportunity to attend the "Teach Access Professor Bootcamp". This was a 3 hour session led by Mary Bellard, Senior Accessibility Architect at Microsoft and co-leader of the Materials Task Force for Teach Access, along with Larry Goldberg, Senior Director at Access Media, Oath. There was a good demonstration on how screen readers work. I have to be honest, I'm not sure I could keep up, and the speed of the screen reader wasn't raised. One comment that really influenced me was: "Disability should be more around the conditions and not a person." I think this is powerful. Two websites you will want to take a look at are:

Let me know if you want to discuss more.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tech Trend most visible at COLTT 2017

WebRTC is coming of age (it's 5), and it is taking over!

It stands for Real Time Connection and it is an amalgamation of old web technologies, and a few new ones, that let people connect directly to one another over the web.

What is the promise of WebRTC?

Tons and tons of interactive tools that go well beyond discussion boards and clicker questions.

Why have I not heard of this before?

For the first four years of WebRTC development, browser support (and especially inter-browser support) was spotty; this made WebRTC somewhat unattractive for developers of cool new tools because it meant that most of the people who tried to use it would have a bad time.

What does the coming of age of WebRTC mean for me?

It means that there are going to be an endless stream of super cool, interactive tools flooding the market; such as Kahoot and YouSeeU.

Kahoot is like clicker questions on steroids. It provides the ability for users on any device to participate locally, remotely, alone, or in groups, LIVE, with other students and educators. It is easy to set up, it is free, and getting started is a breeze.

As you may know, YouSeeU allows students and educators to engage in real time, rich video chat and numerous live communication assessment types.

As more and more tools like Kahoot and YouSeeU get built on top of WebRTC, the gamification of education will begin to come alive and the sense of being involved with a group of people (when engaging in long distance learning) will get stronger and stronger.

Hooray WebRTC and hooray interactive learning!

(Learn more at the WebRTC wikipedia page)
Fusion 2017
The Fusion conference covered a wide range of ways to leverage the learning management system to facilitate engaging learning experiences.

In a session presented by the American Nursing Association the presenter discussed how they integrated storytelling techniques, utilized self-paced materials, and created games through Brightspace to assist nurses as they continuously work to stay up to speed in a rapidly changing healthcare field.

In Getting Started with Personalized Adaptive Learning, a D2L representative delved into the Gartner hype cycle and how it relates to adaptive learning platforms. Adaptive learning platforms are about to hit the enlightenment period of the cycle, reaching full potential. Currently, many institutions are using release conditions within Brightspace create an adaptive learning experience. Pre-tests through Brightspace help to ascertain a student’s competency level and allows students to skip sections of learning content based on their knowledge level. The representative stressed the need for a diverse set of content in order for an adaptive learning approach to be effective through release conditions.

In another session, Sinclair Community College discussed how they leveraged the LOR in Brightspace to create single source courses in a variety of formats. They start with an online course master as a base for development and adapt for different course formats from there. Chunks of course content are placed in different modules and those modules are pulled into different course formats. Only IDs and a few faculty who have received training have the ability to edit course content. Meta tags are used to make content searchable and chunking course content aids in monitoring analytics on specific content pieces, helping schools to make improvements to a course.

One of my favorite sessions was a lightening round on student engagement. Saint Leo University discussed the use of gamification in a history course. Instructors created a story line with a villain who is responsible for changing history. The goal is to figure out what the villain has changed in history and fix incorrect information.

Slippery Rock University integrated RSS and Twitter feeds into course homepages in an effort to draw students in and keep information fresh. They also utilized VoiceThread for introductions, participation in case studies, and contributions to a collaborative class presentation.

Finally, Saint Leo University discussed how they created learning innovation at scale. They asked students from across the campus and across disciplines to participate in a mass learning event. Students were asked to apply knowledge from their particular program to help plan and execute a mock presidential debate. They had a large amount of student participation in planning the event as well has hundreds of students who attended the actual event. Here is more information about the project as well as a video from one of the presidential candidates.

I really liked this idea because it broke down barriers among different programs and had students apply their knowledge in an experiential way. Overall a great conference!

Monday, August 21, 2017

The $200 Light Board at COLTT 2017

ID&T is always looking out for learning technology innovations. These can be the more recent innovations such as AR/VR/MR, or a remix of existing technologies that create new uses. The Teaching and Learning with Technology Micro-grant (TLTM) program is good for this as faculty can fund their innovative learning technology ideas and pilot in classrooms. This combination of technology remix and the TLTM is what caught my eye at this year’s COLTT conference, CU-Boulder’s wonderful two-day event featuring all things teaching and learning in the online environment.

A Regis faculty member applied for and was awarded a 2017-18 TLTM to fund construction of a Learning Glass, an enhanced white board (also known as a light board) with special lighting for capturing whiteboard-based teaching segments. Unfortunately, the faculty discovered that materials costs had skyrocketed well past the $2,000 grant limit, forcing a withdrawal from the project.

Enter eLearning Consortium of Colorado members Kae Novak (Front Range CC) and Chris Luchs (CCC Online). For $168, they not only built a working light board but built it live, in front of a sizable crowd, at a COLTT Idea Forge session. Their plan was elegantly simple: use easily obtainable materials, do a proof-of-concept, and let session attendees critique and improve upon the idea. Chris had prechanneled the 2x4s for the plexiglass and purchased the hardware and LED light strip. Then it was putting everything together. Within an hour, and with audience participation, the board was constructed. Once the lights were turned on, the board was ready for attendees to begin testing the board using Expo Neon markers. The results were truly amazing.

The light board is something that ID&T will be building this fall. There isn’t sufficient real estate at this time to build a full-sized floor unit so the initial board will be desktop-size. Same functionality with less space on which to write.

Huge shoutout to Kae and Chris for proving once again that when it comes to innovative teaching and learning with technology, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Additonal resources

Presenter contacts:
Educause - 7 Things You Should Know About Light Boards

Friday, August 18, 2017

COLTT 2017 Jill Reflection: Applying Cognitive Psychology Research to the Classroom

There were many excellent sessions to choose from at COLTT 2017. The session I attended that most resonated with my work developing courses with faculty, however, was Applying Cognitive Psychology Research to the Classroom presented by Tim van der Zee, a visiting doctoral student from the Netherlands. Tim facilitated a very engaging research-based presentation in which he shared several effective learning strategies that are based on research that tells us how the brain works.

Big takeaways from this session for me were:
  • Learning is not actual performance--can't "see" learning 
  • We all learn pretty much the same way--the idea that some people are primarily visual while others are primarily auditory is not actually the case. Variety is the key.
  • We don't know if we are actually learning 
  • All other things being equal, higher intrinsic motivation leads to higher the same time, when we perform WELL, we are more motivated intrinsically. We like success. Success begets success.
  • Learning takes effort. Rote memorization is a building block that can then serve as the foundation for deeper learning later.
Additionally, Tim shared a list of Effective Learning Strategies based on cognitive psychological research that, while not hugely surprising, were very helpful to have in one place. I plan to add these to the list of resources I review with content authors when we begin to develop a course to give them ideas for ways to weave these practices into their course content.
  1. Retrieval Practice-recalling information from memory makes you better able to recall it again later. How? Put away the materials. Practice tests. Flash cards, Write summaries not just for simple information, also complex concepts and relationships.
  2. Spaced Practice--Spacing out learning over time is more effective than massed practice.  Takes advantage of how our brain uses memory. One hour each day rather than cramming. Don't just re-read. Progress tests. Don't rehearse immediately after learning something.
  3. Interleaving--Interleaving (rearranging) different (sub)topics and concepts and practicing them in different orders. Not AAA BBB CCC, but instead ABC BCA CAB
  4. Elaboration and Concrete Examples-Enhance your understanding by connecting information to be learned with what you already know, and expand on it. How? Ask yourself questions. Make connections with what you already know. Identify similarities and differences. Give examples. Do it from memory. Interrogate yourself. Focus on similarities as well as differences.
  5. Dual Coding--Have lots of functional ways to represent the same information in different ways. Can do this as you present information and have students create them as well.  NOT an either or.
Discussion about these learning strategies comprised the bulk of what was covered in the 50 minute session, but I learned enough that I plan to follow Tim on Twitter to see what else he has to share as his research continues!